We recently met with Anthony Calamito, chief evangelist at Boundless, to discuss how open source GIS technology is helping organizations leverage their location data to make smarter business decisions.
ADM: What is GIS?
GIS stands for geographic information system. A GIS is a system
for the management, analysis, visualization and dissemination of geospatial information. GIS lets one visualize many layers of location data in a single map in order to identify patterns and relationships within that data.
GIS can be used to respond to natural disasters, measure population growth against scarcity of resources, determine a region's future need for public services, and much more.
ADM: What market problem does Boundless aim to solve?
Calamito: Eighty percent of today’s data includes a location component. However, because of the issues associated with many proprietary GIS solutions (see below), many organizations are unable to tap into this data:
- High Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) - proprietary software comes with high license costs. The more software you deploy, the higher your license costs!
- Struggle to handle geospatial big data - proprietary GIS solutions do not handle ‘big data’ sources like Hadoop, Accumulo, Cassandra and Google BigTable. But open source solutions exist for seamlessly integrating these sources into a GIS.
- Cannot scale without penalty - with proprietary GIS, if you need to scale up or out to meet demand, you are billed for additional software licenses. Open source doesn't have this limitation.
- Not designed for modern elastic architectures - most proprietary GIS software was designed for Windows-based, bare metal servers. Open source was designed Linux-first, optimized for deployments as containers and microservices
, and can be scripted using Ansible, Puppet or Chef.
Today’s geo-data problems are becoming increasingly complex, requiring next-generation open source solutions. Boundless aims to deliver the ultimate open GIS ecosystem, comprised of a unique combination of technology, products and experts. Our technology empowers enterprises to make smarter business decisions by utilizing of all their geospatial data.
Because the Boundless ecosystem is open source, there are no licenses (and thus no license costs), so there is no penalty to scale your platform up to meet need/demand. And most importantly, the Boundless ecosystem was built from the ground up to work in modern IT architectures.
Anthony Calamito, chief evangelist at Boundless
ADM: What led you to embrace open source GIS in particular?
Calamito: Many GIS solutions currently on the market consist of proprietary software build upon outdated architecture. They are often not scalable and come with costly licenses; they’re simply not fit to handle the next generation of location data initiatives. In wanting to create a solution that was highly scalable and cost-effective, we decided that building upon an open source framework with open APIs was the way to go.
There is a ton of great work being done in the open source geospatial community. Many of the projects Boundless supports and maintains have been around for over 15 years, and are safe, powerful, and proven projects with global user communities behind them. Using these projects as a starting point just makes sense.
Throughout our history we have been an active leader in the open source community. Boundless employs Committers across a wide variety of FOSS4G projects, to include several Steering Committee members. The speed of innovation fostered by open source communities is crucial to the proliferation of GIS.
ADM: What are some key features of the new platform? How does is it differ from other GIS solutions out there?
Calamito: Key features and benefits of the Boundless open GIS platform include:
- The most comprehensive product line of commercially supported open GIS products that work at the database, server, desktop, web, mobile and cloud tiers.
- Boundless Connect delivers an ecosystem of knowledge, geospatial tools, content and services to the open source community. Users from all around the globe can both contribute and consume from that ecosystem, making open source GIS easier for everyone.
- Boundless combines 14 years of open source expertise with GIS resources including consulting, training and support.
Unlike proprietary, licensed solutions that are prohibitively expensive for the growing volume of geospatial data, Boundless is open by design. It is immediately scalable and license-free, making it easy for developers, GIS and business analysts to access location-based data in a cloud-based GIS platform.
ADM: In which industries has GIS gained the most traction? Which have the most untapped potential?
Calamito: The greatest traction has been among government organizations, who have been strapped with reduced budgets. Leveraging commercially-supported open source software is a way to reduce costs without sacrificing capability. Almost two-thirds of our customer base are in the public sector.
Outside of government, the industries we see with high adoption potential include agriculture, insurance, public safety, transportation, and oil/gas. These industries are very competitive and require innovative solutions. The speed at which open source can adapt is critical to the success of companies in these sectors.
ADM: Where do you see the open GIS industry heading? What trends are on the rise?
Calamito: The U.S. Department of Labor named geospatial technology one of the top three most important high-growth industries in the 21st century, along with nanotechnology and biotechnology. Within geospatial technology fields, the projected employment growth from 2010 to 2020 of geoscientists is 21 percent, environmental engineers is 22 percent, and computer systems analysts is 22 percent (U.S. Department of Labor, 2012).
Open Data Initiatives
More data sets are becoming public (open-source). The general population is looking for more transparency and access into public data sources. Gone are the days when public information is shoved away in closed databases or in paper, back in filing cabinets. The open data initiative has been key in unlocking access - but even more - providing information in intuitive formats that can be readily used in modern computing applications.
For geospatial information, being able to unlock, for example, parcel information or city bike lanes, to constituents helps gain valuable insights into the data that they never had access before. Organizations can now analyze impacts of lane closures and alert consumers of bike lane services of route segment shutdowns.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Growth in IoT use cases (source). With the boom of Internet of Things and a connected environments, more information that is “location-aware” is available than ever before. The challenge now is figuring out how to analyze and process this abundance of information, leading to more informed and intelligent decision making. Paired with the growth of machine learning technologies, being able to analyze, understand, and even predict, helps us gain valuable insights that are not apparent at face value.
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